May 29, 2015 UXa Masterclass Sydney 2015: Market Research & User Research

Francis Fung
UX Department Manager, User Experience Department

At the end of March 2015, I was lucky enough to be able to attend the UXalliance Masterclass Event in the sunny city of Sydney, Australia.

Photo of the Sydney`s iconic Opera House and Harbour Bridge.

As always, the event was a mix of wonderful topics related to the world of User Experience (UX), design and research. I was invited to give a speech, and the topic I decided to talk about was:

“Market Research & User Research. Of course they should go together, so why isn't everyone doing it?”

The topic was very well received and I was met with more questions and feedback than expected from the audience. This led me to think; maybe this is worth sharing in our Mitsue-Links Column.

Here were some of the main questions asked by audience members during the talk and throughout the day:

What is the basic difference between UX research and market research?

In very simple terms, market research is mostly quantitative with large samples of participants. It focuses on customers' opinions and is mainly about what customers say - it is very much opinion based, i.e. what they say they will buy, whether they would prefer “offer A” or “offer B” etc.

User research is pretty much the opposite of market research. User research focuses on qualitative methods of testing and much smaller samples of users - individual interviews with deep insight questions, expert reviews, card sorting etc.

It focuses on individual users, what they actually do and, most importantly, answers the question “why did they do that?”

A screenshot of the Sydney Masterclass website.

In which phase of a new digital product's development do you recommend to focus on user research and when on the marketing research?

It depends on which stage you are starting from and what you want to find out.
Here are some examples of possible scenarios:

Who is our product aimed at? Who should we recruit for testing?
Conduct Market Research
People said they wanted these features but why are they not being used?
Conduct User Research
We've interviewed people and their opinions have led to these 3 re-designs. Which design should we go with?
Conduct Market Research.
We've got all the features and the right design. Is this product easy to use?
Conduct User Research

So, it depends on what you already know or want to find out. However, the important thing is to do both at some point.

How can UX researchers share their results with marketing in order to successfully promote a final product?

A good way, which may seem simple and obvious but is often forgotten, is simply to have more meetings between the UX researchers and marketing teams. Too often UX researchers and marketers feel separated and that what they do does not affect the other team; but in reality it does, and in a bigger way than they think. I have seen cases where the UX team doesn't even know if the marketing team has done any research or testing, and vice versa. So, the most important thing is to have communication between the two teams. That is how to best share their results.

How to justify UX and market research in relation to the ROI of a project?

A very simple way of justifying is to plan both market research and user research as one set from the beginning; from the research proposal stage. They should not be viewed as two separate methods, but instead they are both required and both necessary to validate each other's findings. Doing both will ensure you have the correct knowledge and validations to create the best product and maximise sales. Whereas not doing both (only doing one) may potentially lose you money as well as possible ROI because you are releasing a product without checking all aspects and without making sure it's ready or required.

Finally, if the client doesn't understand what is different regarding market research and user research, is it our job to advocate doing both?

Yes, of course. Audience members asked me should we still advocate, even if a client approaches their company with a research plan already in place. The answer is still yes. It doesn't matter at which stage you start, nor whether you start with market research or user research. What matters is that at some stage, both need to be used. The further you get towards the end of the development cycle, the more you'll find that both market research and user research need to complement each other in order to achieve a successful product.

Robert Schumacher, Executive Vice-President of User Experience at GfK outlines his talk entitled “The Fickle Relationship Between Brand and User Experience.”

Hopefully the answers above helped the audience in Sydney as well as anyone wondering about the need and benefits for conducting both market research and user research.

For more information regarding user research in Japan, feel free to reach out to me at:

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